Vital Strategies, a public health organization that helps governments strengthen their public health systems, has announced the first projects to be funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of a $10 million commitment to address the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania.
The initiative is part of a three-year, $50 million investment in a joint effort by Vital Strategies, the Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins University, and the CDC Foundation to help up to ten states with high rates of opioid use address the root causes of opioid addiction and take steps to prevent overdose deaths. The first round of funding for Pennsylvania will support efforts to expand access to buprenorphine and methadone treatment in emergency departments, in-patient settings, and state prisons and jails; train sheriffs as harm-reduction partners; and reduce stigma through media awareness campaigns.
The initial round of grants include support for the Hospital Opioid Learning Action Network, a partnership with the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians that seeks to engage more than a hundred hospitals to identify best practices, develop innovative strategies of care, share lessons learned, and hone expertise in supporting patients with opioid use disorder. Vital Strategies also will partner with the Pennsylvania Sheriffs' Association (PSA) and the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition to provide guidance and education to law enforcement officers on substance-use disorders and harm-reduction strategies designed to reduce overdose deaths and facilitate access to treatment; work with PSA and other criminal justice stakeholders to assess treatment delivery and capacity within local county jails and identify opportunities for expanding the delivery of opioid-agonist treatment and naloxone as a standard of care; and launch media campaigns to improve public education, boost access to medications and services, and reduce stigma around opioid addiction.
"Pennsylvania will be a national model for addressing the overdose crisis," said Daliah Heller, director of drug use initiatives at Vital Strategies. "The state, under Governor [Tom] Wolf's leadership, is the first in our initiative to bring together law enforcement, state agencies, community leaders, hospitals, prisons, and harm-reduction organizations in such a coordinated way. The overdose crisis calls for a comprehensive response, and I know that by working together we can make rapid progress to reduce overdose deaths."